Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Child obesity alarming in Qatar

Childhood obesity has become one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century as its prevalence worldwide increased to 42mn children under five years in 2010, Hamad Medical Corporation’s Paediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes acting consultant Dr Ahmed el-Awwa has said.

“The prevalence of obesity in children has increased at an alarming rate and its prevalence in the last 10-20 years has tripled globally due to a lot of factors such as environmental triggers that will predispose obesity including bad diets and a lack of physical activities due to the proliferation of television, Internet, video games and smartphones,” he explained.

Speaking to Gulf Times on the sidelines of the inaugural symposium of the Sidra Medical and Research Centre’s symposia series recently, Dr el-Awwa observed that overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and they are more likely to develop diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age.

Some of the potential health risks with obesity according to Dr Awwa, who is also the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar’s clinical paediatrics instructor, include glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, hepatic steatosis, cholelithiasis (gallstones), orthopedic problems, obstructive sleep apnea, asthma, skin conditions and menstrual abnormalities.

“Obesity also has some psychological effects on the affected child such as low self-esteem, negative body image, depression, social stigma, teasing and bullying as well as discrimination,” he added.

Citing a past study conducted among Qatari adolescent boys (1,968) and girls (1,955), he mentioned that the obesity prevalence was highest among boys aged 12 years old (11.7%) and highest among girls aged 13 years (6.4%).

“Some 8.6% of the boys was found to be underweight while another 28.6% and 7.9% are overweight and obese respectively and among the girls, 5.8% was found as being underweight while 18.9% and 4,7% are overweight and obese in that order,” he explained.

Diets contributing to childhood obesity include high-calorie foods or beverages, which are high in sugar, fast foods, baked goods, junk snacks widely available at vending machines, soft drinks as well as candy and desserts.

“A more recent study on habits of food intake among children also found some unhealthy food habits including skipping breakfast, unhealthy snacking or eating fast foods more than twice per week,” he said.

He explained that skipping breakfast does not directly relate to obesity but it might affect the children’s concentration at school thus preventing them from paying attention in class.

“When you skip the regular breakfast including a balanced meal of protein and carbohydrate, the child might go to the vending machine or the school cafeteria to eat junk food,” he stated.

(Source: Gulf Times)

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